21 July 2008

I got into a fight yesterday.

It’s one of those ‘he said/she said’ stories. I know that in telling it I’ll probably end up conveying my own pettiness rather than any sense of the… the… injustice I face everyday in this world. However, I need to vent.


It happened at the launderette. It was a stinking hot day and I had a double load of stinkies that needed washing. It could not be delayed any longer. So I hefted my laundry-bag onto my back turtle-style and headed off to my not-so-beautiful launderette.

At the launderette I loaded up two washing machines but then realized I only had enough money and detergent for one load. So I set one machine in motion and jogged home to get some money. I grabbed a ten dollar note and returned, hot and stinky myself, to the launderette.

There is a lady who works at the launderette. It’s her job to clean the lint filters, put ‘Out of Order’ signs on the machines and make sure no one walks out of the place with a dryer. Although, all I’ve ever seen her do is read trashy magazines and chat to her twenty-something daughter who hangs out there. I shall call this lady Bleach.

I approached Bleach, waited for her to finish talking to her daughter, and asked her if she could give me ten single dollars in exchange for my single $10.

Bleach got out a THICK wad of singles from her pocket, looked at the money, and said to me, ‘No change.’

I thought we were having a problem with accent-translation so I repeated my request and pointed to the money in her hand.

The lady repeated, ‘No change.’

Her daughter added, ‘You gotta go upstairs for change. Upstairs!’

I assumed there must be a ‘no change’ policy in the launderette. This didn’t make much sense, but I tried a different approach instead, ‘Okay, can I buy a box of Tide then please?’

‘Oh, you want Tide?’ Bleach said like it was all a big misunderstanding, ‘Sure!’

As she went into the backroom to get the Tide another woman came into the launderette. Bleach came out of the backroom and gave me my Tide, and then turned to the new woman. This new woman said ‘hello’ and gave Bleach a twenty-dollar note. Bleach then proceeded to count out twenty single dollars in exchange for the single $20. Right in front of me!

When she was finished with the new woman Bleach turned to me and said, ‘Tide is 75cents.’

I slid my $10 note across the counter to her.

Bleach slid it back, ‘No change. The Tide only costs 75 cents.’

Her daughter jumped in again, ‘You have to go upstairs for change! It’s only 75 cents! Just go upstairs!’ She was acting like I was picking on her poor mama.

‘But you have change. I can see it!’ I felt totally confused and frustrated, and I know my voice was rising.

‘Just go upstairs!’ The daughter yelled at me.

I couldn’t believe I was being yelled out over this stupid issue. I was dumbstruck. I stared at the daughter for a moment, trying to find words to express how absurd I thought the situation was. I had no words.

I would have liked to huff out of the launderette, not giving them my business, never to return again. However, I already had a load of washing in the machine. I couldn’t abandon it.

‘Fine,’ I said as patronizingly as I could manage. I went upstairs to the Lenny’s Sandwich shop where the girl at the counter was more than happy to give me change. I asked for two $5 notes.

I went back downstairs to pay for my Tide and gave Bleach $5.

She looked REALLY pissed that I had come back with a $5 note rather than singles.

However, she got out her FAT WAD of money and counted me out my change.

At this stage I blew a New York fuse and pulled out some of the harshest language I’ll ever use on a stranger:

‘You have plenty of change. Look at it! Who is it for? Your friends? That’s just so ridiculous you made me go upstairs. Ridiculous! Ri-dic-u-LOUS!’

The daughter looked like she wanted to murder me, however she bit her tongue.

I went and put the rest of my washing in a machine, my hands were trembling. No further incidents occurred.


It seems to me people in New York like to yell. They yell at their friends, they yell at strangers, and crazies standing on street corners yell at the world. New York is a city full of fanatic neurotic quixotic people who, when you run into one, can really make life feel like an episode of Seinfeld. However, I’m not so big on public yelling and this episode has got me thinking. Should I be celebrating my first public yell as some sort of milestone towards New York assimilation? Or should I read it as an anti-social behavior that may actually be the symptom of a subliminal discontent I have with this city?

Dunno. I just wanted some change.


Felix for Zosia said...

Huzzah! I say celebrate. Why not? It's a good excuse to have a drink.

Mars said...

what a bitch... i say YELL! especially if someone is giving you a hard time over nothing. that whole passive aggressive thing you've got going doesn't seem translate...

shout, yell and honk your horn with all the rest of them.

when in rome/amsterdam...etc.

kiki said...

was she black?

dot said...

in theory passive aggressive is meant to turn your problem into everyone else's problem. eg, 'what problem?' however, you are right - i don't think it'll work in New York.

so, good advice, more drinking and yelling. thanks guys.

kiki, are you being facetious?

audrey said...

I had a huge fight with a woman in a laundromat once. She was doing some kind of commercial washing there and I accidentally started running fresh water on just washed sheets. God, she went crazy. I've never seen anything like it, calling me a stupid bitch and so on.

Her business partner (she was the ironing side of the equation) told me not to worry and that she just really like to be top dog around there. I was like, is this Prisoner Cell Block H? For fuck's sake..

Angelina said...

That is the most bizarre thing ever. Why on earth wouldn't she give you change, but gave it to someone else? What a strange person.

TimT said...

*Whispers in the tone of an trumpeting elephant*...



TimT said...

Actually... it just struck me.

You still want change? Speak to Barack Obama! He's got plenty!

dot said...

Audrey, it seems laundrettes attract evil power-hungry types to run them. Must be something about all that steam...

Timt, good point, I hope Obama brings the change I need!